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EU support for reforms in Ukraine is ineffective in fighting corruption

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The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has found EU support for reforms in Ukraine ineffective in fighting grand corruption. EU Reporter spoke to the lead auditor on this report Juhan Parts on his conclusions and what it means for the EU’s continuing support. 

Where there is endemic corruption in a country or society, leading to widespread petty corruption, Parts says it is necessary to look at higher and more structural explanations. 

“Despite varied support the EU has offered to Ukraine, oligarchs and vested interests continue to undermine the rule of law and to threaten the country’s development,” said  Parts. “Ukraine needs a focused and efficient strategy to tackle the power of oligarchs and diminish state capture. The EU can play a much more significant role than it has done so far.

“Grand corruption and state capture by oligarchs hinder competition and growth, but they also harm the democratic process. The court estimates that tens of billions of euros are lost annually as a result of corruption.” 

The EU is certainly aware of the problem and has made it a cross-cutting priority, channelling funds and efforts through a variety of sectors, including competition policy, the environment, and of course the judiciary and civil society. However, the auditors found that the financial support and measures put in place have failed to deliver. 

Despite being aware of the connections between oligarchs, high-level officials, politicians, the judiciary and state-owned enterprises, the report finds the EU hasn’t developed a real strategy for targeting this sort of systemic corruption. Auditors give the example of money laundering, which is dealt with only at the margins and where EU states could take a stronger lead. 

The auditors acknowledge some of the EU’s efforts, for example, in its help for the creation of a High Anti-Corruption Court, which has started to show promising results and a National Anti-Corruption Bureau, but these achievements are constantly at risk with organizations still struggling to make their presence felt and the entire system remains very fragile.

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Parts says that there is very strong support in Ukraine for reforms and that we should look at the changes in countries like the Baltics and other EU countries who have made major reforms and have experienced much higher levels of growth relative to Ukraine in the same period. 

The ECA has made seven recommendations. Parts says that there is a willingness to take on these recommendations and make the necessary changes.

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